Saturday, June 25, 2011

I’m getting sick of genealogy!

0616110958aTennessee – before heading up into NC.  This is the Douglas Lake looking toward the Douglas Dam… which dammed up the French Broad River where I believe my ancestors had farms.

Asheville, NC

Did I say that?  I’ve been mesmerized by searching for my roots since I was 24 years old – and that’s been more than four (4) decades ago.  Sometimes too obsessed to eat or rest.  Then came out and I’ve been wild to track down each of my ancestral lines.  And I’ve really enjoyed doing research for others as well as my own family.  But, having been totally devoted to this obsession for over two full months… I do believe I’m reaching the point of maximum saturation for diggin’ roots. 

For one thing, it’s too sedentary.  I need to be up moving around more and staying more active.  When I’m out in the field like I’ve been the past couple of weeks… I do get more activity, but what happens, I get to a library or archives, walk around get what I want to look at and plop my butt down for hours more… then return to the van, get on the computer, and enter the new stuff I found.


The Folk Art Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Today I drove up the Blue Ridge Parkway outside of Asheville, NC a ways, went into the Southern Highland Craft Guild exhibit at the Folk Art Center… drooled over some of the beautiful things… and left with some free brochures and booklets.  This is where I’d do my Christmas shopping, if I were a millionaire.


Reems Creek, in Buncombe County, NC.

I’ve enjoyed driving around the areas where I believe my ancestors lived… but the problem with Eastern TN and Western NC is that the roads are narrow and hilly and windy all at the same time.  Most times there is no place at all for me to pull off quickly with an extended van hauling a 12 trailer. .. and people are always on my tail.


Once a Methodist Parsonage, but now a Bed and Breakfast Inn.

Yesterday I believe I visited the home my ancestors (Calfees) lived in during the Civil War era and later.  That was pretty neat but the discouraging thing is that I can’t prove the link between my great grandfather and those individuals due to the fact he may have changed his name.  Ughhh! And most the people related to those people are dead, and those living that I know… well most don’t care, and the few that do care about our roots, don’t believe I’m barking up the right tree.  Uggghhhh!


From the driveway of the Old Buncombe County Genealogical Society, looking back toward Asheville, NC.

This week I planned to visit two places in Asheville NC and do more research.  The Old Buncombe County Genealogical Society and the downtown Pack Library.  I just scooped them out this afternoon and there is no place I can park.  Downtown was a hustle and bustle this afternoon which really surprised me.  The only way I can do it is drop my trailer someplace and just drive the van in.  There is lots of “tagging’ in this town and I don’t feel safe leaving my stuff in my van.. and don’t want to lock it up in the trailer and leave the trailer someplace unless I can leave it on private property someplace. 

This is just too complicated and I want to just start driving west… but where? ND where the river is going to bust it’s banks, or OK where another nuke plant is being threatened, or where?  None of the water here that I’ve seen so far motivates me to get the boat out.  And the population density here… well, let’s just say I’m in shock.

I feel depressed and miss my friends, my sister, my family in Washington State.  I feel like the van is becoming my coffin.  I need to get out of the East and back to the wilds.  I’m not motivated here to take good care of myself.  (Well, not all my blogs can be uplifting, and I needed to vent and after all, it is MY blog!)

Pout (:

(O.K. who wrote that and where did Charlene go???)


The headwaters of the French Broad River in North Carolina… it runs down into Tennessee.  I believe my ancestors travelled up and down this river.

But I have learned some interesting things about this branch of the family and if I am correct, I hope others will be thrilled with my findings.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Family Secrets????



Somewhere down there, White Pine, TN is land once owned by my forefathers.  I spent the latter part of the week digging through historical records in Dandridge TN and Newport TN trying to find out just where they lived and in fact, just exactly what their names were.  I’ve researched this for years and for several decades have wanted to get here… be here and snoop in person.

There was a secret.  It went something like this (to protect the innocent and those who think continuing to keep this secret is important… I won’t use names):  Great Grandpa might have accidentally killed someone and fled the law and changed his name.  OK great.  But they let me search for the wrong name for a decade before they explained to me why I couldn’t find that name.  Finally they give me the right name and all I run into are brick walls.  If Grandpa’s goal was to hide and not be found… he succeeded.   But yesterday, I found his father’s will.  He had four living children at the time he wrote his will and he was so displeased with them, he only gave them each a dollar and all the rest of his real estate to his second wife (not their mother). 

Land records show he owned a lot of land.  They also show his second wife was selling a lot of it after his death.  But, curiously, a newer memorial gravestone (not old enough to be their original) says both of them died in 1892.  How could she be selling his land after he died, if she died at the same time?  I’m going back next week and see if I can find the probate records.  Should be interesting.

But who died/was killed and how and what’s the rest of that story.

And as for kayaking, I met a man in the Archives in Dandridge, TN this week, who is going to help me figure out where their land was on the river, they owned 1/2 of a ferry landing… and help me find current owners… and maybe put my kayak in there and actually kayak on ancestral lands/waters.  How cool is that?  I passed what I believe was that Ferry landing yesterday… it was right past the spot in the picture above.  One thing about Tennessee, they don’t have a shortage of long, narrow and winding roads.  They are few places where I can pull over with my van and trailer in tow.  I might be looking for a place to drop the trailer while I explore.

But if feels good to be here and I think after waiting for this for decades, I will go away content, regardless of what I learn.

Last night I spent the night in a rest stop.  Today we had a marvelous thunderstorm, and I napped, did genealogy, popped popcorn, made mocha royal, napped some more with the sound of rain on my rooftop… and when the storm stopped did a little housekeeping. The whole while I kept thinking, how good is this?  Is this perfect or what?  I feel so very fortunate to have my health back, and be on the road again, and have my mobile computer lab and my wonderful SwankieWheels.  It doesn’t get any better than this, until tomorrow. 

I am Blessed!


Rest in peace Great Great Grandpa!
(Beth-Car United Methodist Church, Leadville, TN)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

S.O.S. Message to my Followers.

They tell me I’m a pretty good artist so here is a question for my followers:  Would you be willing to buy (say for a minimum of $15) a sketch of yourself, your loved one, or a favorite pet… in exchange for a donation for gas… NOW? I’m feeling frantic, broke and desperate.
Here are some recent sketches:
David Hair, Sr., Dalton GA, June 2011.
And o’ cuzzin’ Dick Tracy, Dalton, GA, June 2011.
And my first trip out as a vandweller was to the Slabs, CA.  I met Mike and Heidi (if you are a Vandweller… you know who I’m talkin’ about). That was the week I installed the roof vent in my own van.  Mike supervised as best he could from the sidelines as he was not feeling well.  The day or two after I got the fan in, Mike was hospitalized.  Camp kinda fell apart after that and I felt helpless and useless… so I gathered what few painting supplies I had on hand, went up the hill where the two old tanks are (if you have been to the Slabs, you know what I’m talkin’ about)… and painted this little sign for them (kinda my way of praying):

2010_02_az_to_slabs_ 005
And they got married I think the following year??? Or was it the same year????  Anyway… ol’ Roadie got a makeover and got renamed Taj.
Decided we needed a sign so Vandwellers could find us at the next gathering and so painted this one… or here is a part of it anyway… I’ll post the whole sign when I find it.
2010_02_28_ 015
That would be KatieTwoKnives’ dog, Mutt, and behind him is Bob Wells’ old trusty Homer.  I love those dogs. Oh, here is the whole sign.
So, can I do a sketch for you?  They will be 8 1/2” by 11” and I’ll send you the sketch by email as soon as it is done.  You will need to pay the postage… should be the flat rate envelope… I’ll double check the price.
My son is a skydiver.  He wanted a painting for Christmas one year of skydivers at sunset.  So here’s the one I did for him.
I’m stuck in NC with more Calfee family research to do, only $60 left, almost out of gas, and no income until 7/20.  Had some major expenses in May and June (along with ending up in the hospital) and wanted to find some way to honestly get a little more income, as soon as possible.
My question to my Followers is:  How much is such a sketch (pencil) worth???  What do you think?  I’m thinking a minimum of $15, and postage on top of that.  I would appreciate all comments and truly appreciate any advance payments.  For those who have helped me in the past, you get a free sketch on request. Send me a photo or two, the full face kind, the more wrinkles the better (in the person, not the photo) and I’ll have the finished sketch back to you via email in a couple days and by USPS mail as soon as funds are received.

See a Gallery of my Art Work.

This would help me so very much.  If you are able to help me, thank you in advance, very very much.
Charlene Swankie (

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Tributes to my husband:







This Charlene when to high school with David’s twins, Richard and Steve.  She and her husband were the abulance drivers who transferred Dave to the heart hospital.  How strange is that?




Today… A Decade Without Him!! I’m shocked. (2014-now 13 years)








David A Swankie, Sr. (1937-2001)

How could it be 10 years already?  Last night I realized that today it would be 10 years since my husband died in open heart surgery.  I want to tell our story as a tribute to this wonderful man.  He would want me to tell our short story.  Please don’t think this is going to be sad or morbid… we laughed and loved more than most people do in an entire lifetime together.


Wonderful… what can I say, he loved horses and dogs and nature… and most of all, he loved me (I felt more than anyone else ever had-including my parents).  We met online in March 2001.  He said, his wife was in a nursing home and no longer knew him and he wanted someone to go have a meal with him and talk.  I was hesitant to go out with a married man… but thought he really needed a friend… but by the time I emailed him back, his wife has passed.  Oh, sure you say, rebound… and so we met… at McDonald’s.  We talked, we parted laughing at how our vehicles looked like they went together… mine a forest green and his bright red… they looked like Christmas parked together. 

We began dating but by the following month (April 2001), we got an apartment together, became engaged… and began planning our wedding.  He didn’t want one, he wanted to get married that very minute.  But I never really had a wedding… so he agreed and the date was set for end of June 2001.  We began settling in and merging our stuff… too many t.v.s and radios, etc.  He claimed the kitchen as HIS and would not even let me wash one dish… and even fussed at me for walking the dirty dishes to the sink. He wanted to make everything perfect for me.  No mis-matched dishes or silverware.  One of his kids laughed at that, as they always had mis-matched stuff.

We arranged the wedding venue, invited all our friends and family (my best friend flying back from Africa), ordered the cake, etc. and so forth.  He insisted on a double-ring ceremony and we went out and bought our rings.  I was much more excited and more in love than the first time around.  My 9-year old granddaughter wrote us a love poem.


I just noticed that the R.S.V.P. date was June 4th and that was the day he died in surgery.  How ironic.

He had many health issues… was on oxygen all the time, was a diabetic, and I knew all that.  I think now looking back on it.. he did too much in getting our new “home” organized while I was working fulltime.  I worked across the street from our new place.  About the end of May we finally got our marriage license.  The very next day I went to work… and he called shortly after I got there, saying he didn’t feel right and thought I should come get him and take him to the Emergency Room.  I did.  They transferred him to a heart hospital in Everett, WA.  I was frantic when they told me we could not even go outside to sit in the fresh air and talk.  That scared us both.

Well, this didn’t sound good.  I told him he was in deep doo-doo for spoiling all the wedding plans and he was going to need a really big shovel to dig his way out of that one. 


David with his deep doo-doo shovel
and my granddaughter, Tori.

I ran out for lunch and came back with a big snow shovel which I had spray painted gold and silver and tied a big bow on.  He laughed so hard I thought he was going to expire on the spot.  From that moment on he had to tell everyone that story.  Someone would come in the room and see the shovel and looked puzzled… and there was the storyteller waiting for them.

I went back home to call around, search on the internet, etc., make phone calls and try to find someone to marry us.  I had no success and felt I needed to get back to him so I rushed back to the hospital.  A couple blocks from the hospital I saw a church steeple off to the left and swerved and just marched in asking if someone could marry us.  I found this guy dressed in a Hawaiian shirt… and he said, “Yes, he married people.  When?”  I said, “Now!”  He became skeptical but followed me back to the hospital.  We got to the room, David’s daughter was there, and I popped my head in the door… and asked “You still want to get married?”  He reply was a loud and hearty “Hell, YESS!”  The minister had no further doubts.  And so we were married right then and there on May 27, 2001.



The minister in his fancy shirt, David’s nurse,
and the bride and groom, Mr. and Mrs. David A. Swankie

A sign went up on the door… “Honeymooners – Do Not Disturb!”  Well, on the heart wing… an odd sign indeed.  But it made David laugh.  Also we had to edit the nurse’s white board.


I don’t know if you can read that but bottom line says: WIFE: Charlene.  We were told he was going to need surgery and his changes were 50/50.  He thought those were good odds… I just felt scared.  Four days after we were married and four days before his surgery, he had one of his twin sons take me to Whidbey Island Naval Air Station and had me added onto his Military Health Insurance.  I knew he had wanted to do that after we were married but once he was in the hospital, I just decided that wasn’t happening and I never even mentioned it to him.  But he didn’t forget.  I told him I didn’t want to leave him long enough to go.  He said I had to.  Twin Richard drove me over in David’s truck… we took care of the insurance, and then we had to pick up Twin Steve… and run some other errands or something… and I kept wanting to get back to the hospital… but it was fun in one way… the boys were singing country songs to me… wow… what a deal… twin step sons who love country music as much as I do. 


David and his four kids.

June 4, 2001 came… we were all awake early, a bunch of his kids were there (I can’t remember who now)… we prayed together.  About 3am I woke up hearing David (not out loud)… introducing me to someone saying exactly “…and this is Charlene, my bride of a week and a day”.  I heard it in my head.  When they took him down to surgery, we were outside the operating room doors… and his surgical nurse came out, introduced herself to him, said she was going to give him a shot now… and he turned to her and said and “…this is Charlene, my bride of a week and a day.”   I just stood there in shock.  Mind you, he had not used those words before, to me or anyone else.  My brain could not believe I heard that or even that through those doors was the OPERATING ROOM… and that he was going into surgery… this was real.  The laughing stopped… but he was telling the nurse a joke as she wheeled him into surgery.  Always telling jokes and trying to make others happy.


My son, Richard, granddaughter Tori,
and daughter-in-law Rhonda

Hours later, after being put on the by-pass machine three times (they had told me that more than once would be a very bad sign)… and finally it was over, he was gone.  My son Richard was there… and I just screamed and held on to him, and was glad he is a big guy.  My Richard took me back to his house where my granddaughter was… and when we told her she just collapsed on the floor and cried.  All three of us just sat in a heap holding each other.  I gave her David’s ring to wear until she felt better and she could give it back to me.  She adored him.  They bonded like nothing I’ve ever seen.  When she learned we had gotten engaged… she hollered “my Grandma is getting married”…. then she ran to the bathroom and locked the door so no one could see her cry… she was so happy.  The news of Grandpa David’s death just crushed her.


He wanted his ashes spread at his favorite fishing spot… where he had planned to take me one day.  We hiked to that spot.


Here are his twin sons, Richard and Steve,
spread their father’s ashes.

On our scheduled wedding date… we met as planned… everyone already had reservations, plane tickets, etc.  My best friend was in transit from Africa and I couldn’t even reach her to tell her David had passed.  I was with my family… and that helped.


My son, Richard and his wife, me with Tori, and my brother Jim with his wife Marla.  The rest of David’s family was gathering for an annual family reunion in Leavenworth, WA and we spent a little time with them as well, but it was ackward.. 

Here are some of the tributes we received for David.

The following year, in a effort not to dwell too much on my loss… I took my Granddaughter on a cruise to Alaska.  We had fun…  but still I dwelled and kept getting more and more depressed and fatter.


We rafted down a river in an Eagle Preserve, took 4-wheel drive jeeps into the back country… saw the Mendenhall Glacier up close and personal.  Still I felt sad and fat and like life was over.  I missed him so much.


But, thanks to the thoughtfulness of my wonderful husband (of a week and a day)… I had health insurance… and have since had my knees replaced, gained my mobility, regained my life… and can now bike, hike, and kayak all I want. (Edited: In fact, by 2014, I had kayaked all 50 states, spread the remainder of his ashes on my Alaska paddle… he was born there, and am planning to hike the 820-mile Arizona National Scenic Trail in 2015.) That would not have been possible if this wonderful man not come into my life. 

He wanted me to meet someone and go on living.  The “someone's” I have met are not of any interest to me… but I am living… David made that possible.

It was my honor to be his wife, if only for a week and a day.  He was a blessing and I hope he is sharing my adventures with me. I feel he is.


David, I will always love you.  How could it be a decade already. (Edited in 2014: 13 years now.)  It still feels like yesterday.  When I think of you, I think of happiness and joy and love.  You are still making me happy.

Your loving wife – forever, Charlene

Who is Swankie?

My photo
Anywhere, USA, Full-Time USA traveler, United States
In 2006, I was shopping for a wheelchair. By 2007, I had new knees, better health and by 2008 a kayak. In Aug 2013, I kayaked my 49th state, Alaska, at the Holgate Glacier and in May 2014, I kayaked Hawaii, my 50th state, to celebrate my 70th Birthday and the finale to the wonderful adventure of Kayaking America? Next up... Solo Hiking the Arizona Trail, 820 miles? Maybe. Still healing from shoulder and trying to decide.